Judge Casts Doubt on Bayer’s Roundup Settlement

Wall Street Journal writer Sara Randazzo reported yesterday that, “A federal judge cast doubt on Bayer AG’s proposal to neatly resolve all future lawsuits over the safety of its Roundup weedkiller, potentially snagging the German company’s attempts to move past the massive liability.

“Bayer said recently it would pay up to $10.9 billion to settle tens of thousands of current Roundup cases and create a system for handling future cases. The deal came after three juries in recent years awarded large verdicts to plaintiffs alleging Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma, spooking investors.

But with Roundup still being sold and no plans to change the label or active ingredients, settling the litigation isn’t as easy as paying those who have already sued. Bayer proposed a novel type of class action to capture all future claims, which would be guided by the conclusions of a court-approved panel of scientists chosen to study Roundup’s potential carcinogenicity.”

The Journal article noted that, “U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, who must approve the class action, said Monday he was skeptical of the plan and likely to reject the idea. In a four-page order refusing to delay a July court hearing in the case, he questioned ‘whether it would be constitutional (or otherwise lawful)’ to hand the issue to a panel of scientists instead of judges and juries.

“The company’s shares fell by 5% Tuesday in Europe.

“‘In an area where the science may be evolving, how could it be appropriate to lock in a decision from a panel of scientists for all future cases?’ the judge wrote. Bayer had proposed giving the panel four years to study existing research on whether Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, cause cancer.”

Ms. Randazzo added that, “Meanwhile, no one could bring new Roundup lawsuits, and if the panel found the weedkiller to be safe, it would essentially shut down any future cases. If the panel concluded Roundup was dangerous at certain exposure levels, lawsuits could go ahead, but those suing couldn’t seek any punitive damages.

“The judge said he also found it ‘dubious’ that news of the class action could possibly reach all farmer workers, gardeners and other Roundup users who haven’t gotten cancer yet and may want to sue.”

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